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Telangana/s of Karnataka

Telangana/s of Karnataka K G GAYATHRI DEVI The discussion published in the EPW (March 3, 2007) written by V Anil Kumar on

Discussion

Telangana/s of Karnataka

K G GAYATHRI DEVI

T
he discussion published in the EPW (March 3, 2007) written by V Anil Kumar on ‘Why Telangana? Why Now?’ succeeds in highlighting the reasons for the demand for a separate state of Telangana gaining momentum now. It also raises questions about the vulnerability of a region due to deprivation and marginalisation in the midst of an intense development agenda in the state under Congress, later the Telugu Desam Party and then Congress again. Considering that Telangana, as a region, includes the largest numbers of the deprived population in terms of dalits and tribals, who inhabit water- and development-starved villages with rain-fed lands and heavily migratory populations, it is but natural that the place was also bereft of leaders who were continuously kept away, marginalised from participation in the mainstream economy, politics and even filmdom.

Dreams and Reality

Another noteworthy point is that the region consists of districts that were under both Nizam’s rule and Madras Presidency till 1956, and were starved of many facilities. It was during this period that the people literally lived under extreme threat for their lives, their women and whatever resources they had. Also known as the Deccan region, with nine districts and the state capital of Hyderabad, Telangana forms the largest area of the state (1, 14,800 sq kms). One thing that distinguishes it is its long period of “independent existence”, which fostered autonomy in its culture. It also saw a number of rebellions, the first being the Communist-led peasant revolt of 1946-51 under Nizam’s rule. Beginning in Nalgonda district, it soon spread to Warangal and to even Bidar, which is a part of the present-day Karnataka. The party induced the protestors to use guerrilla tactics to quell the army which helped it establish autonomy in 3,000 villages, which were organised into communes, following the Russian model. The Andhra Mahasabha also came into existence during this period, which was led by the Urdu poet Mokdhoom Mohiuddin. But soon the entire atmosphere changed with the state of Hyderabad acceding to the Indian Union, in 1949. In spite of the plea for a separate Telangana state by the then ruling Communist Party of India, the region was merged into the state of Andhra Pradesh in 1953. Along with this, all hopes and expectations of a free life by the people also ended. Their demands for land reforms and decentralised governance also did not see the light of the day.

However, what is perplexing is that successive governments in Andhra proclaimed an amelioration of dalits, Muslims and adivasis as their motto and undertook a number of reforms, some state-financed, and some central. Land reform was just one of them. The latest entry into this situation was panchayati raj reforms. While the Telangana movement dreamt of this very situation, what really came out of even the decentralisation experiment in this region was also not encouraging. The problems of the impoverished were not contained, rather it spilled over to the pockets of the neighbouring states both as hapless immigrants and as militants/naxals, Karnataka being one of them.

Let us, for a brief time, ponder over the situation in the latter state. There were slogans for a separate Kodagu state, integration of some border taluks/districts in Belgaum and Dakshina Kannada, into the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Kerala, respectively. There have been regions of the like of Telangana here too. The Hyderabad-Karnataka (HK) region is so near to it in its economic backwardness and having been an extended arm of the same Nizam’s rule. Bijapur in the Bombay-Karnataka area is no less in its backwardness, and greatly matches the districts of the HK area.

However, the situation about inter-caste animosities and dalit-non-dalit interactions has not been worse, if not bad, in the state. The state did have its own doses of protest movements by dalits, the waterloo being the period of rule by a charismatic ruler, late Devraj Urs [Yadav 1998; Manor 2002]. Literary, religious and economic aspects of this movement did set off a series in their own way, but they also paid rich dividends. Almost all the ministers (ex-and current) hailing with dalit, tribal, Muslim and OBC background have been its direct or indirect beneficiaries. Both backward classes’ and dalits’ movements have been ongoing processes.

Let us argue that social structural marginalisation of the downtrodden communities was not that bad here as is the case with Andhra Pradesh. Land reforms did lead to a strong farmers’ movement that culminated into a political party, and where dominant castes also actively participated. However, in reality, both of them (lingayats and vokkaligas in the same order) did make “arrangements” with their tenants who included, in some proportions at least, the dalits. As per the traditional system of jajmani relations, the latter was viewed as the “son” of the household (‘hale’maga’) [Karanth 2002], an institution that kept many a bonded labourer among the upper caste/class, lower caste and dalit farmers silent, when the assistant commissioners sat to take stock of lands under tenancy.

Lingayats and Vokkaligas

Likewise, the role played by the religious organisations of the lingayats, particularly in the north of the state, cannot be undermined. While those that existed much before Basava showed a conservative tendency towards non-lingayats, Basava’s liberal philosophy encouraged many of them to adorn the sacred powder on their foreheads and tie the ‘lingam’ to their neck. This also helped lingayats become a dominant group especially after the lingayat preponderant eight districts, from the erstwhile Bombay and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions, were merged into the then state of Mysore in 1956, as part of states’ reorganisation. This was the humble beginning for the emergence of many new mutts formed by the neo-lingayats or by those lower in the traditional caste hierarchy among the lingayats. These mutts, like the Taralabalu

Economic and Political Weekly April 28, 2007 Mutt in Chitradurga and Davanagere districts, Siddaganga Mutt in Old Mysore’s Tumkur district, Sharanabasaveshwara Mutt of Gulbarga, to name a few, sponsored not only caste associations, but also supported political leaders of various cadres from chief ministers to heads of boards and corporations. Understandably, the panchayati raj institutions have not been out of their reach.

Though the other dominant caste, the vokkaligas, became powerful leaders in the state, they did not show the same finesse as the lingayats. As landowners and agricultural labourers themselves, their antagonism towards dalits and other low castes was not just caste based, but had class overtones. This applies to lingayats also. Measures like land reforms, protective discrimination and release of bonded labourers only added fuel to the fire. At this point of time, conflicts involving violent attacks on dalits increased, and it involved both the dominant groups. We also observe a process of “shifting dominance” where a caste notwithstanding its position in the social hierarchy (either middle or lower), but strong in its possession of economic resources and with a sizeable population has come up as a second order dominant caste. Thus, marathas are so in Bombay-Karnataka area, along with the lingayats, kurubas in some places, Bhunts, Edigas and Devangas elsewhere. With the implementation of decentralisation reforms, dalits and other vulnerable sections have come to acquire positions of power considerably. There is greater class formation among the weaker sections themselves, affecting its leadership much more, besides caste-based “isms” and ideologies.

One last word. Karnataka too had a longtime rule by the Congress Party, then, as in Andhra Pradesh, as there was an absence of other parties which could stand up to expectations. But now, we have coalition politics. However, even now, there is a continuity in the kind of development each administration is seeking. The Urs’ regime, using the strategies of providing economic and political berths by appointing backward classes commissions and such other reforms did upset the dominant groups. However, he also appeased them by creating special berths (as the category of special group) for some of the upper castes. The sectarian mobilisation that he launched returned rich dividends to the creamy layers of many upper, middle and even the SCs, who with or without caste associations, started the hundreds of professional colleges that are thriving in the state. Thus, a combination of factors like decentralised rule in princely Mysore [Natraj and Kripa 2003], the religious mutts and their social reform, softer, non-partisan policies of the princely government establishments by the Yadukula rulers as well as the Muslim kings, Hyder and Tipu or dewans like Janab Mirza Ismail Saheb

– all these laid the foundation for an economically progressive Mysore state. There is an upsurge of subaltern movements here too. But, somehow, they are being distributed all over, thus making some pockets of every district, including the IT-famed Bangalore city also, to exhibit “Telangana like” exclusion from development, thereby questioning the authenticity of the “Karnataka model of development”, rightly questioned in the series of papers in recent weeks [Kadekodi et al 2007].

EPW

Email: kusuma@isec.ac.in

References

Kadekodi, Gopal K, Ravi Kanbur and Vijayenda Rao (2007): ‘Governance and the ‘Karnataka Model of Development’ ’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLII, No 8, February 24.

Karanth, G K (2002): ‘Mutual Exchange Labour in a Changing Rural Economy’, Sociological Bulletin, Vol 51, No 2, pp 217-42.

Manor, James (2002): ‘Pragmatic Progressives in Regional Politics: The Case of Devraj Urs’ in Ghanshyam Shah (ed), Caste and Democratic Politics in India, Permanent Black, New Delhi.

Natraj, V K and Kripa Ananthapur (2003): ‘Delegation to Devolution: Karnataka’, Working Paper No 184, MIDS, Chennai.

Yadav, Manohar (1998): ‘The Career of Dalit Movement in Karnataka’, Journal of Social and Economic Development, Vol I, No 1, January-June, ISEC, Bangalore.

Economic and Political Weekly April 28, 2007

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